Top Intel Republican Claims Big Security Threat On The Horizon

[Series: Reagan White House Photographs, 1/20/1981 - 1/20/1989Collection: White House Photographic Collection, 1/20/1981 - 1/20/1989, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, a Republican from Ohio, made an unusual statement on Wednesday that has given Washington the jitters.  

“Today, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has made available to all Members of Congress information concerning a serious national security threat. I am requesting that President Biden declassify all information relating to this threat so that Congress, the Administration, and our allies can openly discuss the actions necessary to respond to this threat.” 

The statement didn’t offer any additional details, including the nature of the threat.

CNN writes that multiple sources familiar with the intelligence characterized the intelligence as “very sensitive.”

Earlier Wednesday, Turner sent his Congressional colleagues a letter saying the urgent matter is “with regard to a destabilizing foreign military capability.”

One of the sources who has seen the intelligence confirmed that “it is, in fact, a highly concerning and destabilizing” Russian capability “that we were recently made aware of.”

Turner said in the dear colleagues letter that the House Intelligence Committee voted on February 13 to make certain information available for lawmakers to review and says members have time to view this between Wednesday and Friday.

Further reporting has stated that the alleged threat involves a capability involving the Russian military. 

During a press briefing following Turner’s statement, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan expressed confusion about the congressman’s announcement, saying already had a briefing scheduled for tomorrow directly related to the national security threat mentioned by Turner.

Sullivan also said that earlier this week, he reached out to the Gang of Eight, the top leaders from the House and Senate, “to offer myself up for a personal briefing,” according to NBC News.

“That’s been on the books so I am a bit surprised that Congressman Turner came out publicly today, in advance of a meeting on the books, for me to go sit with him alongside our intelligence and defense professionals tomorrow,” Sullivan said.

He continued, “That’s his choice to do that. All I can tell you is that I’m focused on going to see him, sit with him, as well as the other House members of the Gang of Eight tomorrow and I’m not in a position to say anything further from this podium.”

Congress has recently been debating foreign aid to Ukraine, something that both Republican hawks and Joe Biden have desperately pushed over the last few months. 

The announcement from Turner comes as the FBI announced that a controversial surveillance tool “foiled” a terrorist plot on American soil last year as Congress debates an overhaul of the Bureau’s power, including whether or not it needs to obtain a warrant to use the “spying tool.” 

“The bureau shared three newly declassified instances,” writes Politico, in which its access to data collected under the digital spying authority — codified in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — allowed it to protect national security, including one in which it thwarted a “potentially imminent terrorist attack” against U.S. critical infrastructure last year.

The spying tool is set to expire in April if Congress does not renew it.

The House is expected to vote as early as Thursday on whether to approve a major change to the foreign surveillance authority, which has faced backlash because it also sweeps in data from Americans. That change would require bureau analysts to acquire a warrant or court order before searching a database of emails, texts and other digital communications of foreigners for information on U.S. citizens.

The proposal has support from lawmakers in both parties, and the FBI is on a campaign to sway those who are undecided or willing to reconsider.

‘The big point here is the warrant requirement and how damaging that would potentially be, if it were adopted as part of a legislation,’ argued a senior bureau official speaking on behalf of the FBI, who was granted anonymity to freely discuss the cases in detail.”

The FBI was found to have numerous compliance violations by a special federal court overseeing the program since 2020. These violations include instances where bureau personnel inappropriately accessed the communications of those who participated in the January 6 mobbing of the Capitol, George Floyd protestors, and approximately 19,000 donors to an undisclosed Congressional campaign.

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